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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Achieve Greater Freedom through Effective Delegation

14 Mar 2010 8:58 PM | Anonymous

By Janet Civitelli

Recently I asked a group of entrepreneurs to tell me what causes them stress in running their businesses. Many of their responses concerned having too much to do and not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Some business owners described a feeling of constant anxiety about the tasks that are left undone because of time constraints, and some business owners admitted to feelings of severe burnout because they keep trying to do everything, no matter how unsustainable their workload is.

When pressed about why they don't delegate some of the work, entrepreneurs give a variety of reasons. Here are the top reasons given for reluctance to delegate and some discussion about those reasons. You will find that I am a big fan of delegation and learning how to do it well.

1. "It would take so long to teach someone how to do some of my job, it is easier to just do everything myself." It is true that it would require an initial investment of time to teach someone how to do some of the more routine aspects of running your business. But there are a lot of extremely smart people in the world, and many of them know how to use accounting software, create or maintain a Web site, respond to simple inquiries from clients, scan or file paperwork, run errands, etc. Once this person is up-to-speed, you can save hours per week by not doing these tasks yourself. 

2. "I would love to delegate but I can't afford to do so." In making this financial decision, you really need to weigh the opportunity cost of doing everything yourself vs. creating more time to do the important work of strategic visioning for your business, marketing to land more work, delivering awesome results so that clients want to book more business with you or customers want to buy more products from you, or simply having more time for self-care so that you don't begin to break down under the strain of an unmanageable workload. Can you afford to neglect the functional areas of your business that are the most important? Can you afford to become too exhausted to continue? 

3. "I tried delegating once and it didn't work well." This excuse makes the assumption that if something doesn't happen the first time, it isn't worth doing. But how many things in life are accomplished on the first try? You can identify which part of delegation was ineffective and change that part to do it better the next time. Learning how to delegate effectively is a skill that requires practice. Each time you try, make it a learning experience and be assured that as your skill grows, you are getting closer to becoming competent at delegation.

4. "I am afraid that if I delegate something, it won't get done the way I want." Effective delegation requires that you are able to specify the outcome you desire and to check in with the person doing the work so that he/she doesn't get too far off track before you redirect in the right direction. Schedule frequent check-ins in the beginning, when someone doesn't yet know your style, and consider it an investment in the future. After you establish that you and the worker are in sync about expectations, you won't have to track milestone progress so carefully.

5. "I'm afraid I will hire someone and then realize I made a mistake and be stuck with the person." Many entrepreneurs find that it is easier if their first hire is an independent contractor/freelancer rather than a permanent employee. This way, you can evaluate for a trial period if there is a good match between what the freelancer offers and what you need. (Make sure to follow the IRS guidelines about hiring independent contractors, including the rules about allowing the freelancer to have control and independence about how he/she accomplishes his/her tasks as long as the output matches your expectations.) 

6.  "I don't know where to find freelancers." There are lots of resources now to find talented individuals to hire. (; (; and ( are just a few of them. If you would rather investigate resources closer to home, contact the career services office of a local university and find out how to post a job to hire a student.

Once you taste the freedom that effective delegation brings, you will be so glad you learned how to do it. Then the only task left to do is to figure out the best ways to use all that time you have freed up!

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